What Writers Have to Learn from The 10X Rule

Today’s guest post is by Carmen Amato (@CarmenConnects), author of Narco Noir, the latest installment in her Detective Emilia Cruz police series.


“Success is your duty, obligation and responsibility.”

Duty? Obligation? Responsibility?

Who talks like that?

Grant Cardone, author of The 10X Rule, talks like that. He’s a real estate investor, Fortune 500 business coach, New York Times bestselling author, media mogul, radio and television personality, and has brought his selling strategies to millions via Tony Robbins-style events. An ounce of Grant Cardone contains more energy juice than a truckload of Red Bull.

But he’s a business mogul. I’m a writer. A creative. This doesn’t apply.

Wrong.

The 10X Rule, published in 2011, is a business book that can supercharge your writing confidence and productivity.

Why Be Successful?

“If you stop trying to succeed, it’s like trying to live the rest of your life off the last breath of air.”

Cardone is a mover and a shaker, to be sure, but always in a forward direction. He considers it everyone’s duty to be successful in order to provide for family and community, even while making the point that success is the result of persistent forward actions taken over a significant duration.

In short, Cardone wants us to live in an atmosphere of perpetual drive and shares three compelling reasons why:

1. Success is important: Cardone wants success to be your safety net. “Success provides confidence, security, a sense of comfort, the ability to contribute at a greater level, and hope and leadership for others in terms of what is possible.”

As a writer, you inform and entertain, but also rise to the challenge of the unborn story. Unmet personal expectations have negative ripple effects on you and those around you.

2. Success is your duty: Cardone sees success as an ethical issue. You have a responsibility to provide for yourself, provide for your family, and be able generate the resources to ride out rough patches. Moreover, it is your duty as a moral person to live up to your full potential.

As writers, most of us hope/expect to generate income. Even if this is a side hustle, writing can boost your earning power. It enhances your critical thinking and communication skills, which are key career attributes in every industry.

3. There is no shortage of success: “Success is not a zero sum game, there can be many winners. Success is not a commodity or resource that has limited reserves … Your achievement does not prevent or limit my ability to achieve.”

It’s not a competition. Louise Penny and Ann Cleeves are bestsellers in the International Mystery and Crime category, but their success does not limit me. Writing success comes in many flavors, too, including discoverability, income generation, community building, leadership in multiple areas, etc.

Where We Go Wrong

“Almost every problem people face in their careers and other aspects of their lives … are all the result of not taking enough action.”

Okay, I get it. Success = good.

So why aren’t we all as successful as Cardone, dammit?

According to The 10X Rule, when it comes to achieving a goal, most of the time we vastly underestimate level of effort, time to completion, and obstacles in our way. It’s actually a natural tendency. As proven by a 1996 study in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, most people anticipate positive outcomes as opposed to negative outcomes.

Basically, we’re wired to be optimistic. This leads us miscalculate the effort required and only minimally prepare for challenges. When we fail, the knee-jerk reaction is to reduce the goal instead of upping the effort. We rarely take “massive action,” Cardone’s favorite catchphrase.

Almost every interviewer asks authors how long it takes to write a book, with the implication that shorter is better. But a Johnny Rocket schedule doesn’t allow for the effort required and sets us up for failure.

When was the last time you underestimated the time it took to write a blog post? A book? Your resume? What got in the way? Lack of an outline? Binge-watching a new show? Arguing on Twitter?

(Free pass if the answer is a sick kid.)

Did this miscalculation make you ditch your goal or change the level of effort?

10X Your Goals

“The reality is that if you start small, you are probably going to go small.”

Here’s where the 10X rubber hits the road. Cardone argues convincingly to make your goals 10 times bigger than what you think you can achieve.

A goal that is 10 times bigger and more audacious is a psychological kick in the pants that gives you the motivation necessary to achieve liftoff and sustain effort. Without 10X goal-setting, you simply won’t be motivated enough to “invest the energy, effort, and resources necessary to accommodate unexpected variables and conditions that are certain to occur” over the long haul.

Cardone strikes down any thought of “subpar targets” with the mindset equivalent of Thor’s hammer, saying “If you start any task with a mind toward limiting the potential outcome, you will limit the actions necessary to accomplish that very goal.”

The bottom line: Cardone wants us to set goals that are 10 times what you think you want and then do 10 times what you think it will take to accomplish them.

To some, this 10X thinking might appear to be laughable, totally pie-in-the-sky. But as Cardone says, even if you don’t achieve the entire 10X goal, you will have achieved far more than if you stayed with subpar targets.

For example, if my 10X goal is to have my mystery series become a Netflix show, the level of effort is going to be much greater than a goal of writing a book someday. Even if there’s never a show, a series with the quality and inventiveness calculated to grab a Netflix producer’s attention is going to create success in other ways.

How to Build 10X Goals

“Nothing worth doing is done or once or twice a year.”

Forget New Year’s resolutions.

Cardone challenges us to get serious with a blue sky exercise every writer needs to do. Every day for seven days, write a data dump of what you want. What do you really want from life? From your writing career? Get family and friends involved to support you. Prune until you have a short list of things that really, really motivate you.

Couch these goals in the present tense, as if they are already achieved. Like affirmations, write them down twice daily, once in the morning and once at night. Cardone keeps a legal pad on the bedside table. Writing down goals consistently will lead to solutions for how to achieve them.

Sound goofy? Maybe there’s a goal in the back of your mind to write a book someday. Compare that to the person who writes down every day: “I am an author with 10 published books.”

When we set those two approaches on the scales, which one is more likely to motivate? 

Cardone isn’t exactly a voice crying in the wind when it comes to goal-setting. The Harvard Business Review, Forbes magazine, life coaches, and other resources advocate writing down goals. Many cite a famous Harvard study of goal-setting. The class of 1979 of the university’s MBA program were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”

Only 3% of the graduates said yes, 13% had goals but not written down, and 84% had no specific goals at all. Ten years later, the 13% with unwritten goals earned double the 84% with no goals. The 3% with written goals earned 10 times all the rest put together.

No Excuses, No Fear

“People give their fears much more time than they deserve.”

With 10X thinking, starve your fear of time and it will wither and die.

Get the thing causing fear behind you as quickly as possible. Write those 1000 crappy words every morning, rather than letting anxiety build all day long. Send in that pitch before fear of rejection eats another day.

Unfortunately, too many writers nurture fear. For example, imposter syndrome is a phrase that crops up at least once a week in Facebook writer’s groups, with threads that start with a variant of “I’m afraid I’m not a real writer.” The fear is validated by dozens of comments. This actually spreads the fear rather than starving it.

10X Ingredients

Armed with your 10X goals and ready to take massive action, Cardone offers a list of attitudes to speed you on your way, including:

  • A “can-do” attitude
  • A focus on opportunity and overcoming challenges
  • Ability to face fear and take swift action
  • Constantly looking for ways to improve what you are doing
  • Dedication to results
  • Persistence

“Happiness, security, confidence, and fulfillment come from utilizing your gifts and energy to achieve whatever you’ve decided is success for you.”

Posted in Guest Post, Writing Advice.

Following a 30 year career with the Central Intelligence Agency, Carmen Amato writes mystery and suspense, including the Detective Emilia Cruz police series set in Acapulco. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco, confronting Mexico’s cartels, corruption and social inequalities. The series recently won the Poison Cup award for Outstanding Series from Crime Masters of America and was optioned for television. Click here to get the free Detective Emilia Cruz Library. Originally from upstate New York, Carmen’s experiences in Mexico and Central America launched her fiction career. Carmen is a recipient of both the National Intelligence Award and the Career Intelligence Medal.

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Frances Caballo

What a great post, Carmen! I also believe that writers benefit from reading business books and blog posts and books about social media marketing intended for businesses. Indie authors are business owners whether they accept that label or not. So it makes sense to learn these types of practices from the best voices in the business world. BTW: I don’t believe in New Years resolutions either. Who really sticks to them? Anyway, it looks like I need to read this book. I hadn’t heard of it before so I’m grateful for this post and introduction to the book.

Andrea Lisi

First time I heard this “10x concept” was from Dan Sullivan (Strategic Coach) and Joe Polish, also in the entrepreneurial and info-business world. I’ve been trying to apply it for a few years now, and it has proven sound, when coupled with operational and tactical training (such as 5000 words per hour by Chris Fox). On the other hand, it can get dangerous if applied like Cardone does. In one of his courses he preaches debt as a personal financial strategy, so that as a salesman you “have more motivation” to make 10x the money you are making right now.… Read more »

C.D. Watson

I have this book on my TBR list. Thanks for the reminder that it needs to be read!

Ernie Zelinski

As a self-published writer whose books have now sold over 1,000,000 copies worldwide and have been published in 22 languages in 29 countries, I think that I have achieved more “success” than at least 97 percent of writers. I am a strong believer of reading business and motivational books but this whole article doesn’t resonate with me at all. This statement in particular is ridiculous: “Almost every problem people face in their careers and other aspects of their lives … are all the result of not taking enough action.” As I stress in the new edition of “The Lazy Person’s… Read more »

Mike Johnston

Carmen, Thanks for a thought provoking article. I have heard people talk about “10X” before, but had not seen Cardone’s work. I’m adding his book to my reading list. After reading the comments, I have to say that I don’t see the incosistency between your article and Ernie’s thoughts. It seems to me that if you have set audacious objectives that are clearly stated (Cardone’s point) you will be past the “delusion, denial, distortion” stage that Ernie mentions, and will be well positioned to take the right actions to achieve them. Thanks for getting me thinking this morning.

Kathryn R Drew

Your post really resonated with me for some reason. Perhaps just much-needed boost after a period of writers block. I asppreciate this prespective; there are no “tricks” to success. It takes effort.

Keith Pratt

Getting an error message when trying to access the link posted in the bio page to the Detective Emilia Cruz Library. Is anyone else having this problem or is it just me? Regardless, an excellent thought provoking article. Thank you for sharing.

Jane Friedman

Hi Keith: The link appears to be working. Here it is again: http://carmenamato.net/starter-library/

Keith Pratt

Thanks. It is working like a charm. Perhaps my laptop was having a “bad internet day”.